Percival

 

Later to be better known as the man who surrendered Singapore. He certainly had his fair share of adventure in Ireland

1914. Aug. Percival enlisted on the first day of the war as a private in the Officer Training Corps of the Inns of Court, at the age of 26, and was promoted after five weeks' basic training to temporary second lieutenant. Nearly one third of his fellow recruits would be dead by the end of the war.

1914 Nov. Percival promoted to captain.

1915 Feb. To France with the newly formed 7th (Service) Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment which became part of the 54th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division

1916 Jul 1. He survived first day of the Battle of the Somme

1916 Aug 7. Badly wounded in four places by shrapnel, as he led his company in an assault on the Schwaben Redoubt, beyond the ruins of Thiepval village, and was awarded the Military Cross.

1916 Oct. Percival took a regular commission as a captain with the Essex Regiment in October 1916, whilst recovering from his injuries in hospital.

1917 Promoted a temporary major in his original regiment.

1917, he became battalion commander with the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. During Germany's Spring Offensive, Percival led a counter-attack that saved a unit of French artillery from capture, winning a Croix de Guerre.

1918. For a short period, he acted as commander of the 54th Brigade. He was given brevet promotion to major, and awarded the Distinguished Service Order, with his citation noting his "power of command and knowledge of tactics".

1918 He ended the war as a respected soldier, described as "very efficient" and was recommended for the Staff College.

1919 Apr 19. Essex Regt. — Capt. & Bt. Maj. A. E. Percival,- D.S.O., M.C., relinquishes the temp, rank of Lt.-Col.

1919 He volunteered for service with the Archangel Command of the British Military Mission during the North Russia Campaignr. Acting as second-in-command of the 45th Royal Fusiliers, he earned a bar to his DSO in August, for his attack in the Gorodok operation along the Dvina. The citation reads: He commanded the Gorodok column on 9–10 August 1919, with great gallantry and skill, and owing to the success of this column the forces on the right bank of the Dvina were able to capture all its objectives. During the enemy counter-attack from Selmenga on Gorodok he handled his men excellently. The enemy were repulsed with great loss, leaving 400 prisoners in our hands.

Percival was certainly not "popular" in Ireland. One can argue withr that this was because he was good at his job, or that he was over zealous in the use of torture. He certainly featres in many Witness statements. And he instituted new tactics that mirrored the flying columns that hthe IRA had sucessfully pioneered. WS1234 Jack Hennessey. Major Percival was O/C of the Essex in Bandon and in order to try and defeat our columns he had adopted column tactics, himself. His column usually consisted of from two to four hundred men. The officers travelled on horseback and the men on foot or cycles. Provisions were carried by lorry or on pack mules. On some occaions the men slept in tents and on other occasions they followed our lead and slept in houses and barns. The troops made sweeps across country and surrounded groups of houses during the night, closing in at daybreak. We were usually kept informed of all Percival's movements. When he left Bandon or Kinsale with a column our scouts kept reports going to our brigade headquarters. WS1275..We were also up against a very strong British force. Major Percival adopted tactics in West Cork which made it difficult for dispatch riders to move. Percival did not keep to the roads; he brought his troops across country, lay in ambush at crossroads during darkness and occupied groups of farmhouses. Re copied our column methods. There was the constant danger of a dispatch rider going to a house during darkness and finding it occupied by the Essex

1920 Feb. WS 918. Another raid was carried out on Temple House, the residence of Major Percival. The late Frank Carty was in charge of this raid and a large number of men took part. Temple House premises were very extensive and we made a thorough search. We got one Peter-The-Painter and a thousand rounds of ammunition, seven or eight shotguns, a large amount of gelignite, and a rifle which proved of little use to us. We also took away a collection of spears, daggers, swords,, etc.

1920 Jul 27. L/Cpl Maddox was killed while on an intelligence operation in Cork. Major Percival and Maddox set out to raid the home of a suspected IRA man following the shooting of a Sgt Mulherin. Percival says "I took a picked man and proceeded to the house of a local IRA leader which was situated only 500 yards from our barracks, with a view to watching it. On entering the garden a shot rang out and the man fell dead. Shot through the head by a fellow armed with a shotgun loaded with slugs. We had walked on to the top of an IRA piquet which was protecting the house"

1920 Oct 9. Men from Cork No. 3 Brigade, IRA, commanded by Sean Hales, OC Bandon battalion; ambushed Major Percival along with two officers and twenty men from the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment. The British were traveling in two Crossley tenders near Newcestown Cross, Co Cork at 22.55 on Oct 9. The 3 officers were Major Percival, Lt Robertson and Lt Richardson. Other men on the patrol were CSM Benton, Pte Wooton. In the attack the other two officers were killed (Lt. R.D.F. Robertson and Lt. Richardson, Wireless Officer, RAF) and four soldiers were wounded. For gallantry shown that night Major Percival was awarded the OBE and CSM Benton the MBE, Private Wooton was awarded the Medal of the British Empire. These were amongst the first gazetted awards for the Anglo-Irish War 1919-22; it was the Secretary of State, Winston Churchill who stated, “Why because they are shot down by Irish rebels and not by Mesopotamian rebels, should they be excluded from consideration”

1920 Dec. WS 443. ...One day towards the end of the month I was working - repairing a fence in a field - and I could hear a distance off a sound as if a tractor was engaged on Winter ploughing. Tractors were not very common at this time but I did. not pay any great attention to the noise, unfortunately for myself, for the sound must have been that of a military lorry. At all events, shortly after I was ordered to put my hands up and three British Officers appeared over the fence and held me up with their revolvers unpleasantly close to me. From the description I got afterwards one was Major Percival of the Essex Regiment and another was a Lieutenant Hotblack, the man who spoke with a pronounced stutter. I did not know who the other was. Percival asked me my name end when I did not reply he told. me it himself and also told me a lot more about myself detailing activities in which I had taken part, and telling me it Was no use in denying such. I was marched away by these three Officers and down and. into Jagoe's farmyard where I was held for a considerable time while parties of the Essex Regiment assembled there apparently after raiding the locality. As each party came in me they made it their business to knock me about and altogether I received pretty bad handling from them

1921 Feb 4. WS 556 Mary Walsh. . Volunteer P. Crowley remained at this time in our district. He was awaiting an appendix operation. A dump was prepared by us for him. (He had his meals in our house after being told there was no raiding). Unfortunately, the place was surrounded this morning by military in single formation which closed in on the suspected houses. When word came, Paddy and my brother ran by a fence to cover, only to run in to Percival himself. They retraced their steps, Percival following and firing. My sister and I ran after the two boys hoping to save them from the firing as we felt sure he would not fire on us. My brother then gave up hoping that Paddy could get out as he had to be held prisoner, but another soldier was called on to cover him. Then my sister caught Percival by the legs (he was on a gate) and held him fast, even though he beat her knuckles with a gun. When he could not release himself he pointed the gun at our brother, and said he would shoot him dead if she did not let him go. We had hoped by this time that Paddy had got well away. He was followed by Percival and was found stretched dead about a quarter of a mile from our home by a Cumann na mBan girl that was crossing to let us know of the raid. My sister and I, with a few others, brought the body back to our house before the military had time to collect it. They came along with a local R.I.C. man to identify the body, but did not interfere again. He was waked and buried from our house in Clogagh and was given full military honours.

1921 Feb WS 827 Denis Collins, on an interrogation after capture." ... an Officer of the Essex Regiment came into the room: .... "Get up and get dressed" he ordered. I did so. Then I asked him could I have a cup of tea and a bit to eat before I was taken away. He refused to allow me to have any such thing. I asked could I bring a razor with me. He refused this also. I was made come and brought along the road and put into a lorry. We moved down the road till we came to Mannings. Here Major Percival and Major Spooner stood in the yard with David Manning with his back to a wall. Though I could not hear every word that was said I could grasp that the two Officers were trying to get some information out of Manning but without success. Suddenly Percival. shouted to a Sergeant to fall in twelve men as a firing party. The Sergeant fell them in right opposite Manning. Percival and Spooner kept up the cross- examination and were prodding Manning with the muzzles of their revolvers. I could see Manning shaking his head as if refusing to say anything. Percival and the other drew back and told the Sergeant to put the firing party in the loading position. This was done but Manning showed no signs of fright or of weakening. At length Percival had the firing party dismissed and Manning was put in the lorry with us and brought to Kinsale Barrack

1921 Feb . WS1603 Michael Crowley. . my brother Paddy, who was resting prior to an operation in O'Neill's house at Maryboro', Timoleague, was notified by scouts of enemy approach. He hurriedly dressed and, while attempting to escape, was wounded and captured. On recognising him, Major Percival, in charge of the military (the famous Essex regiment) shot him dead. My eldest brother, Denis, was caught on the same round-up and, though not recognised, was arrested and suffered brutal treatment at the hands of the Essex

1921 Mar 16. WS 615 Frank Thornton ... our Intelligence Officer in Cork reported that Percival had gone to London on holidays and was going on to Dovercourt which is on the south-east coast. on a Sunday night I attended a conference in Kirwan's in Parnell Street with Mick Collins, Bill ahearne, Pa Murray and Tadhg Sullivan of Cork, and we left the following day for England to shoot Percival. When we arrived in London we contacted San Maguire and Reggie Eunne and Intelligence was set in motion to contact Percival. .. we finally located Percival but it was an impossibility to get at him because he was staying in the Military Barracks at Dovercourt. However, our contact man succeeded in getting the information that Percival was returning to Ireland on the 16th March and would arrive at Liverpool Street Station, London, at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We made our plans and our party, augmented with a few more from London, took up our positions in Liverpool Street Station. The fates, however, were against us. At a quarter to three we were amazed to see Sam Maguire standing by the side of the News Kiosk beckoning one of us to come over to him. Now Sam had never shown his hand in London before for very good reasons as he was our principal Intelligence Officer there, but on this occasion his hand was forced because one of his contacts in Scotland Yard had given him the tip that the C.I.D. had spotted some of our party and that all preparations were made to surround the station. Needless to remark, we got out as quickly as possible and made for different rendezvous. We learned afterwards that at about five minutes to three a cordon of military and police was thrown round the station and every passenger had to pass through this cordon, some or them being held there for hours, but "the birds had flown". The unfortunate part about it was that Percival was able to get back to Cork safely.

1921 Mar 19. WS 832 William Desmond. ... I suddenly got the order to halt and put up my hands. I saw the military lying inside the fence with their guns trained on me. The next thing I got the order to come inside the fence. The old overcoat I was wearing had a hole in the pocket and as I was climbing over the ditch through a lot of bushes and briars I managed to slip the revolver through the hole in the pocket and don to the ground between the briars. The only thing I had in my possession was a torch I had taken from Dr. Crowley when I arrested him. I was searched after being taken in over the ditch and they found the torch. They asked me my name and I told them it was William Desmond but gave my address as Ballintubber. They asked me where I was going at that hour of the morning and I said I was going working for my sister who lived at Crowhill near Upton. After some time the military and myself proceeded down to Forde's house across the fields. Here I met Major Percival for the first time. He came up across the fields from Forde's house. The soldiers who had taken me didn't belong to his regiment, the Essex. They were belonging to the Hampshire Regiment, stationed in Cork at the time. Just about this time I noticed the hay and straw at Fordes was ablase. We moved towards the road again, after Percival had questioned me in the same way as the others did. I gave him the same answers. He was a tall vicious looking men and moved with an easy gait. I noticed, incidentally, that a number of the soldiers had bags or sacking twisted about their boots. When we got to the road there was a back-to-back trap held by two civilians and in it, with the head to the tear, the body of a man was stretched dead, as I guessed. He was dressed only in pants and shirt and was barefooted. I was ordered to got between the shafts of the car and with the other two men to pull the trap along the road.... I found out afterwards that one of these men was Humphrey Fords himself but he wasn't giving a stranger any information. About this time now, just as it was bright, the firing started at Crossbarry. I heard Percival give order 'Come on, Kinsale party' and I was told. come on with them, The other two man were left halted with the trap. An old man, whom I didn't know at the time, was walking at the back of the trap. I heard afterwards he was Humphrey Forde's father. We got in over the fence again and moved on in the direction of Crossbarry. I saw military coming from every direction. I was taken along through a lane and the Officer in charge halted his party there and I heard him giving the member of yards- 600 - at which to fix their sights. He gave the order 'Five rounds rapid' and they fired. Fire was returned by members of the Column and when that happened the British made me stand up on the ditch 'so that his o-40- so-am-sos will shoot him now'. They also said 'If any of n fellows shot you know what to expect'. They got very angry about this time and started clubbing me with the butts of the rifles and beating me around, while I was still on he top of the ditch. Same of the other soldiers interfered and said I was their prisoner and they prevented any further beating at that time. After some time when the firing was not so hot our party advanced down towards a stream in the direction of Crossbarry, I being given a box of bombs to carry. As we were crossing the stream I stumbled and let the box of bombs drop into the water. I nearly lost my life over this. They beat me again for doing it. We didn't advance much further. The box of bombs was taken from me and we retired back to where the trap had been left. In the meantime Percival. and his own had gone on towards Crossbarry where firing had slackened off except for a shot now and then. I was made get between the shafts of the trap again and with the two other and the old man walking behind I was made pull it down to the actual scene of the ambush. It was a sight I won't easily forget. There were soldiers dead and wounded lying all over the road between Beasleys and Harolds. There was a lorry which had apparently rum up against the fence after the driver was shot and a soldier still alive and wounded wedged between the lorry and the fence along by Harolds. Further down the road another...there were altogether six prisoners, including the old man and myself. We were kept under close observation with a guard over us in one of the farmyards. a couple of the prisoners were brought off down the road, it was alleged, to lift one of the mines set there by the I.R.A. I was not taken out for this Job. After a couple of hours Major Percival appeared and we were all put through an interrogation by him. He asked me did I know anything of the man who had been shot away off at the farmhouse. This was Charlie Hurley but I denied all knowledge of him, Some junior Officer remarked upon my breeches and leggings, saying, 'This fellow looks like a so-and-so Commandant..

afternoon passed without incident and that night about 8 o'clock I was taken up before Major Percival again and the first thing he asked me was why did I tall him all the lies about myself. I denied telling him any lies and he Said, 'You are not from Ballintubber or from Crowhill either but you are from Coolenagh, Newceston. We know all about you. You are a prominent I.R.A. man and you will be shot in the morning'. I said, 'If you shoot me, I can't help it, but you will be shooting an innocent man'. He said to the N.C.O. with the escort, 'Take him away'. The night passed the same as the others and the morning too... my time had come, but nothing happened beyond the usual threatenings by the soldiers. All day Wednesday passed in the same way and that evening some prisoners were brought. ... After breakfast we were handcuffed in pairs and marched down to Bandon Station and taken off by train to Cork. There we were put on board tenders and brought up to Victoria Military Barracks

1921 Mar 21. 3 IRA men were killed at Crossbarry Ambush. One of the bodies was to be secretly buried. WS 556 Mary Walsh. A Brigade meeting took place near our house and scouts were sent out. A number spent the night in our house and got food. Some had travelled a long distance. After the meeting many came along for their horses and got away in the early morning, including Con Murphy of Timoleague Company. While awaiting a message from the scouts a military party came along to the house of call in Cloundreen: some got away but Con was shot dead, The Officer of that raiding party was Silver from Courtmacsherry. Our house was surrounded at the same hour by Percival, with his men in shorts. We were not allowed leave the house that morning until the military had removed in a pony and trap the body, which was taken to Kinsale across the country. ..

1921 Apr 19. WS 615 also says that Tadhg Sullivan one of the ambush party returned to Cork via Liverpool and soon afterwards was shot dead in Cork, and the irony of it is that be was shot dead in a raid carried out by Percival on a house in Cork. It appears that a meeting of one of the IRA city Battalion councils was being held and Tadhg on arrival at the house, spotted the raiding party before he went in, and so as to draw them away from the meeting made a dash across the road, into another building and was shot dead in attempting to escape through the back window

1921 May 22. WS 470. Castlebernard was situated about 400 yards as the crow flies from the Military Barracks at Bandon and we were aware that on the previous evening a Column of the Essex Regiment under command of Major Percival (of Singapore fame) had moved into Bandon from Kinsale. It will be understood that it .was expedient for us to get away from the vicinity of Castlebernard as quickly as possible with our hostage, particularly as the fire in the Castle would attract the attention of the Military quickly. Their hostage was the Earl of Bandon and he was released 12 Jul 1921

1921 May WS 1690. An enemy Column, about 400 strong, under Major Percival - known as 'Percival's Column - moved into Macroom about this time and billeted in the National Schools directly opposite my home. While the Column was in the area we were all busily engaged keeping a record of their movements all round the clock. These records were taken to Battalion Headquarters (which was being moved round the district each night) by me or by some other member of our unit.

1921 Jun 9. WS 793 Michael O'Sullivan . .. We saw no more Auxiliaries travelling the roads. The policy was rather for large bodies of troops to sweep across country and pick up every man they could find. Sometimes they picked up members of the Column but didn't connect them with the offenders. Percival's Column from Bandon took part in the big round up and once I thought I had the opportunity of doing great destruction to his crowd as they went up a steep road opposite to where I was ensconced with the Lewis gun and 10 pans of ammunition. I only abandoned the idea when I saw that amongst them were prisoners and I realised that I would only be doing them harPercival's Column was made up of Infantry with horse transport for equipment and baggage. Himself rode a horse. A few of his Officers also had horses. He had hardly 300 men. An advance party went ahead of the main body by half a mile. This advance party rounded up everyone they saw or fired at everyone who did not immediately halt. They made a beeline back to Bandon from Ballyvourney using all the by-roads. At the village of Kilnamartyra the advance party rounded up a dozen old men and some nondescript younger men. These they lined up along a wall near the pub. Presently Percival came along with the main body. He was seated on a horse and directed one of his Sergeants to inspect the prisoners. The Sergeant walked slowly along the line, then walking back to Percival said, "There's not a Shinner amongst them, sir". Passing through Toames (South of the Lee) that evening they fired on young Buckley who was bringing water from the well to his mother. They killed him.

Percival Ambush